Reflections on “Sarah Palin’s Alaska”

By Jedediah Bila

Jedediah Bila

When I first heard about Sarah Palin’s eight-week documentary series on TLC, “Sarah Palin’s Alaska,” I thought, “Perfect. I finally get to see Alaska.” But I had no idea how much of a glimpse I’d get into a landscape and lifestyle so different from the one I see and live each day. Or how inspired I’d be by it all.

While I may have plenty of survival skills when it comes to dealing with the left-wing New York City elite, it’s clear that I may need some help from the Palins in the brown bear/fishing/campfire departments. Here are some things I’ve discovered from watching the show: 

  1. I must climb Mt. McKinley ASAP. When the first episode aired, I received a call from my mom saying, “Let me guess. You’re jealous.” And I was. My weekly runs through Central Park, annual roller coaster escapades, and Saturday fitness challenges suddenly looked strikingly lame. Advice from mom: Make sure you bring someone who can yank 115 pounds out of a crevasse.
  2. Watching mama brown bears defend their cubs is a beautiful thing. Sarah Palin wasn’t kidding with that whole mama grizzly theme. I walked away thinking the following: 1) I want a baby brown bear. 2) The fact that the Palins sat in a rowboat fifty feet from two angry mama bears is awesome. 3) Piper Palin has a pretty hefty growl for a little person.
  3. I went fishing once when I was twelve. My cousin and I sat in a boat in our swimsuits while a boom box blasted 90s tunes. I think I was holding a rod, but who could remember with all the dancing? Let’s just say that fishing with the Palins is a tad different. You better be ready to sweat and get your hands dirty, as it’s all about hard work, cooperation, and persistence. As I recall, the only things my cousin and I got out of our fishing “trip” were sunburns and a fish that was likely the size of typical Palin bait.
  4. Halibut are gigantic. And they’re feisty suckers. Not to mention that the process by which they are processed is pretty fascinating. Watching Sarah and Bristol bond over a day of catching and cleaning halibut reminded me that a family that works together grows together. I was even able to convince my mom to hit the gym with me after that one, which is no small task. P.S. – Halibut really is that delicious. Even with my awful cooking!
  5. Caribou hunting north of the Arctic Circle isn’t something I’ll likely be doing anytime soon. However, the diligence, patience, and survival skills embodied by Chuck Heath are inspiring. Chuck appears to be a natural-born teacher and a natural-born leader, and he seems to represent what my grandpa used to call “good people.” More than that, he epitomizes what it means to be an American. If this Manhattan girl is ever stranded in the middle of nowhere and is granted one phone call, I hope Chuck is listed!
  6. When stripped of the finer things in life like a warm bed, a TV, and a kitchen full of goodies, you’d be amazed just how resourceful some can be. A Palin campout where Sarah, Chuck, and Todd taught the Gosselin kids how to build a fire, fish, and work together to achieve common goals, sent a powerful and wonderful message to America’s children. Teamwork is invaluable. Time with family is the best medicine. Hard work feels good. And smores are an absolute necessity.

I’d like to thank the Palins for sharing Alaska and their family with America for these eight weeks. I’ve always wanted to see Alaska in person, but now I know that I must.

I often speak and write about the founding American values I cherish – personal responsibility, a strong work ethic, and self-reliance. But seeing those values brought to life each week by a regular American family makes them so much more real and tangible. It reminds me what’s worth fighting for.

Looks like dog sledding and whitewater rafting are up for the Palins next week. Yes, mom. I’m jealous!

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7 years ago

Sarah Palin would of been proud to hear you this evening on Hannity!!

8 years ago

As for all that 1940 s golly-gee, gosh-darnit, expression krap of Palin, I, over the ucorse of many years, have come to find that people using those type of expressions in the modern world are invariably too dumb (or unwilling) to admit that the condition of the nation is not as peachy-keen as they WANT to believe it is. Those who cannot govern according to what the conditions really ARE are as unfit for govt service as one can get.

Nowell Wood
10 years ago

The show was entertaining. The scenery and wildlife was magnificent. I hope that Gov. Palin is not overexposing herself to both the right and left. I think she is a very savvy woman. Hope she continues the espouse the values and virtues of a conservative agenda.

Wesley Creed
10 years ago

1. Finally! I found you
2. I spent 2years in Alaska, loved every minute, worst thing was the long daylight. !2 hour shifts got us off with light to spare… have moose pix I took at 2:30 AM. The last independent folks live in AK

Mike V.
10 years ago

Sounds like you have someone in mind to escort you on your Alaskan trek but if they can’t make it I would be more than willing and able to go and, if necessary, to pull you out of a crevasse. As for bears, I would be good for a minute or two diversion at best.

Dave Weinbaum
10 years ago

Jedediah, While I can understand Dems going after Gov Palin after the election, because they fear her more than anyone, it’s tough to hear so-called conservatives slap her around. If she was a he that wouldn’t happen and I make that point whereever I can. BTW, used some of your stuff for a column I wrote, giving you attribution of course.

10 years ago

Having lived in the belly o’ the beast of liberalism, the sf bay area, for 8 years, it’s been a goal of mine to see Alaska firsthand. I would like to see the start or finish of an Iditarod. After having watched Sarah Palin’s program, I MUST see Alaska for myself. Soon.

Jim Ricketts
10 years ago

GREAT column and is exactly the America we are fighting to save from liberal/socialists – they truly WANT to destroy our great country and values.

Jedediah, your column captures some of those values – keep up the great work and appearances on Red Eye!

10 years ago


Take the Avalanche Gulch route if a beginner. I forgot to mention that. The experts can take the other more dangerous routes.

10 years ago

My little brother and I climbed to the top of Mt. Shasta in July of 1997. We took the more amateur climber route or what is the ‘Avalanche Gulch’ route. We parked at about 6 to 7 thousand feet and hiked the first day to the 10,400 ft. Helen Lake tiny area and set up a tent (it’s not a lake by any means, just a more level small area to set up some tents). Terrible winds during the night that disappeared with a clear sky by 1:00am. We got up at 4:00am and by near 11:30am, we were at the top. It was a nice sunny day and there were plenty of others who made it too. There is this book you sign at the top to show you made it.

If you are a beginner to mt. climbing but in decent physical shape, I cannot recommend a better first-time climb of over 14,000 ft. It really tests your endurance, but without as much technical climbing experience needed and as such is statistically a safer climb for a May to August timeframe.

Lisa Cacioppo
10 years ago

Jed, last June, one of our patients, a strong, handsome, very well built man of 90 years, (and he just happens to be one of my favorite patients,) has a 90 year old girlfriend who lives in Alaska. The week after his appointment he had a vacation scheduled to visit her for a month so they could go canoeing and fishing and hiking! Just wears me out thinking about it. :)

Walt Ely
10 years ago

I’ve known a ‘wild’ sportsman most of my life. We sailed together from Marina Del Rey CA to Lahaina Maui in 1971 on a 55′ schooner and once we got there he planted his flag on Maui. Now the only other places he goes are Alaska twice a year to fish for salmon for 30 years and Las Vegas to accompany his real estate salesperson wife !!! I think Sarah Palin is going to make Alaska the new tourist destination for many years to come. It certainly is a big and beautiful state for those who appreciate ‘the great OUTDOORS’. Don’t think I’d recommend it for Winter fun though. I’m just sayin’ Brrrrr.

10 years ago

Nice column, from view of a New Yorker (Jed) who at least looks at things west of the Hudson.(as opposed to NYTimes opinion writers)
I’ve been to Alaska many times, never climbed McKinley (my old roommate did), but have done multiple 14,000 ft peaks in Colorado. Advice: you think you’re in shape at sea level. Start climbing some in New Hampshire/Appalachians, then Colorado 14.000 foot peaks, to learn. McKinley requires experience, climbing skill, determination, and the realization of how dangerous it is. But what an accomplishment, if you can do it.

10 years ago

I couldn’t agree more!

Even politically, the show portrays the Palin’s as a regular family. Karl Rove knocked Sarah Palin for doing the show saying “she’s not being Presidential”. The American people have grown out of the phase where they want aristocrats for leaders – they want real people with leadership skills to be their leaders.

10 years ago

I love the show. I used to fish and camp for years. What I like the most of Alaska is the scenery. To watch an Eagle in flight is awe inspiring. Eagles are the most beautiful birds I ever seen. Helps that it is our national bird. Sarah and her family are great and such beauty to see them as themselves in their own environment. EXCELLENT SHOW!!!! Thanks to the Palins for showing us a bit of Alaska…

Dennis Stornelli
10 years ago

I love the show. I used to fish and camp for years. What I like the most of Alaska is the scenery. To watch an Eagle in flight is awe inspiring. Eagles are the most beautiful birds I ever seen. Helps that it is our national bird. Sarah and her family are great and such beauty to see them as themselves in their own environment. EXCELLENT!!

10 years ago

Great column, great show. Thank you, Jedediah!

10 years ago

Love the show!

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